Daily Archives: March 16, 2018

Thousands in DRC Flee Ethnic Violence, Sexual Abuse

The United Nations refugee agency says inter-ethnic violence and sexual abuse have sent more than 4,000 people from eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo fleeing to Uganda over the past three days.

The latest exodus from the DRC has pushed the number of refugees that have fled to Uganda this year to 57,000.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told VOA a large majority, 77 percent, are women and children.

Some of them are arriving in traumatized conditions. As soon as they land, UNHCR has been trying to work with our partners to identify those who need our urgent assistance. But the scale of violence being reported of the increasing numbers is quite alarming and worrying, Baloch said.

The refugees are fleeing the DRC’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces. Most are crossing into Uganda by boat across Lake Albert.

Baloch said they arrive with few or no belongings. He said many are exhausted, hungry, thirsty and sick. He said they recount chilling tales of violence, including rape, murder and separation from family members.

Armed men are reported to be attacking villages, looting and burning down houses, indiscriminately killing civilian populations and kidnapping young men and boys. A growing number of reports indicate that the violence is taking on ethnic dimensions as tribal groups engage in retaliatory attacks, Baloch said.

Uganda currently is home to an estimated 1.4 million refugees from South Sudan. The UNHCR fears the number of refugees from the DRC will continue to rise if the violence and horrific incidents of sexual and other abuse continue, sending thousands more fleeing for their lives.

Source: Voice of America

Nigerians Express Anger at Lawmakers’ ‘Outrageous’ Monthly Allowance

The revelation by a Nigerian senator that lawmakers in the upper house of parliament receive about $37,500 each month for personal expenses has prompted anger in the west African country, where most people live on less than $2 a day.

Senator Shehu Sani, who represents people in the northwestern state of Kaduna, said Senate lawmakers earn about 750,000 naira a month, with a further monthly “running allowance” of 13.5 million naira which equates to $37,500 on the black market rate of 360 naira per dollar most commonly used.

Sani’s disclosure sparked outrage in parts of the press and social media. While the elite in Africa’s biggest crude producer have long benefited from the country’s oil wealth, most of its 190 million inhabitants live in poverty.

“We must stop our lawmakers being the ones to determine how they are paid,” said development economist Odilim Enwegbara.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who has not said whether he will seek a second term in elections next February, came to power in 2015 vowing to improve the lives of ordinary Nigerians.

But the IMF recently said the people were getting poorer. Public outrage over the gap between rich and poor could become an election campaign issue in the coming months.

Usman Mohammed, a civil servant in Abuja, said the money allocated for lawmakers’ expenses was “outrageous.”

“They are supposed not to earn up to that amount of money when people hardly survive,” he said.

A man selling wallets to drivers stuck in traffic on the gridlocked streets of the commercial capital Lagos, who gave his name only as Chijioke, said Nigeria’s leaders were failing their people.

“Our leaders will not think about us. We are hustling not because we like it but we have to help ourselves,” he said.

Chijioke makes around 800 naira – just $2.22 – a day by weaving between cars under the equatorial sun for several hours each day.

Africa’s largest economy is only slowly emerging from recession. Inflation, despite slowing down for 13 months in a row, remained in double figures at 14.3 percent in February.

Food inflation, which hovered around 20 percent throughout last year, stood at 17.6 percent last month.

The expense figures discussed by Sani, a member of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress party with a reputation for being a firebrand politician, had not previously been disclosed.

“When that light of transparency is cast on all these personalities and offices, then Nigerians will come to know whether it is worth their while to support or sustain the big government as we have now,” said Sani.

Source: Voice of America

UN: African Women Need Voice in Politics to Achieve Equality

The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women says gender equality in Africa can be achieved only if women and girls � especially those in rural areas � have a voice in politics and economic planning.

That conclusion came out of the commission’s annual meeting in New York this week. Lopa Banerjee, director of the U.N. Women’s Civil Society Division, said the commission has “irrefutable evidence” that women and girls in rural areas will be left behind unless government policy failures are addressed.

“We are putting the laser light on the rights of women and girls who live in rural areas whose rights and ability to exercise their full potential has been held back,” Banerjee told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

Esther Mwaura-Muiru, founder of the nonprofit GROOTS (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood) Kenya, who spoke at this year’s session, said one key issue is unpaid child care and other work that African women and girls routinely provide.

“We are not saying [they must] be paid, but there must be investment for them to be able to engage with government,” Mwaura-Muiru told South Sudan in Focus.

Banerjee said the level of deprivation that women and girls in rural areas face has existed for decades, to a point where it becomes a vicious cycle.

“If you think about a young girl who is born into a poor household in a deep rural community, by the time that she is able to work she is already taking care of other siblings” and “perhaps already involved in domestic work,” Banerjee said.

Women make up 50 percent of Africa’s population, but 80 percent of them live in rural areas. More than half of rural women are employed in the agriculture sector, which U.N. Women describes as the backbone of African economies.

South Sudan

The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF says even though child marriages are on the decline globally, the practice is still widespread in parts of Africa.

Under the South Sudan Education Act 2012, all children have the right to be in school. Under South Sudan’s Child Act 2008, it is illegal to force a schoolgirl to get married. And under South Sudanese law, one must be 18 to marry.

However, education officials in South Sudan’s Jonglei state say it’s extremely difficult to implement those laws.

John Adol Malual, education director in Bor East County, explained: “If somebody has impregnated a girl child in the school and you want to come in as implementer of this law, you may already find the parent of the girl and the girl herself and the man who has done that have an agreement. So there is no way of putting yourself there.”

Ajier Mary, 27, said she married at the age of 15 because she was worried that she might not find a husband later in life.

“We just thought that we are wasting our time because we know that mothers and fathers who survived, they are alive without education. So, I chose to drop out of school without instruction from [my] mom and also my dad. Now when I see my classmates holding bachelors [degrees], I feel guilty,” Mary said.

Mary said she thinks about going back to school, but the responsibilities of family have prevented her from doing so. She said her experience has taught her to raise her seven-year-old daughter differently.

Abel Majak, a community elder in Bor, admits he forced his 16-year-old daughter to accept a marriage proposal.

“Six men came to me offering to marry my daughter. My daughter was in [eighth grade] and she refused, saying she wanted to continue her education first. I told her that was not acceptable. When a husband has come with a lot of cows and wants to marry you, your education should stop,” Majak said.

According to UNICEF, an estimated 12 million girls a year marry in childhood worldwide. That number is 25 million fewer than what was anticipated 10 years ago.

To end the practice by 2030 � the target set out in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals � UNICEF said progress must be significantly accelerated. It says that 650 million women alive today were married as children.

U.N. Women is urging governments to undertake legislative and administrative reforms to promote land rights, control over reproductive resources, and access to natural resources.

2018 report

The Commission on the Status of Women report argues, in part:

* Women are susceptible to dispossession because they lack inheritance rights.

* Women lack effective and transparent land governance. In many countries, rural land is often undocumented, making it highly vulnerable to land grabs and expropriation and making local communities vulnerable to dispossession and displacement with little or no compensation.

* Child and early marriage has clear implications for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. These include a lack of information, adequate health care and decision-making power regarding safe sex and family planning.

* Death and disease associated with lack of access to safe and reliable water and sanitation disproportionately affect poor rural women and girls.

Source: Voice of America


CAPE TOWN– South Africa’s Cabinet has re-affirmed its commitment to the diversification and transformation of the country’s financial sector, says Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

Commenting on the recent announcement by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) that it had placed VBS Mutual Bank under curatorship, Mokonyane said: The appointed curatorship will support the VBS Mutual Bank to restore its liquidity challenges and serve the interests of the public and VBS depositors.”

Briefing the media here Thursday on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting which was held on Wednesday, the Minister also said the Cabinet had taken note of the case filed in the High Court by two non-governmental organizations regarding government’s decision to sign power purchase agreements with 27 Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The matter will be heard by the High Court on March 27.

In the spirit of constitutionalism and the rule of law, the signing has been postponed. Cabinet affirms the commitment to resolve the matters around these programmes, Mokonyane said.

The Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Programme will ensure that consumers in the country have access to cost-efficient and clean energy, and will bring much-needed investment to South Africa. These projects are expected to provide 61,600 full-time jobs, 95 per cent of them for South African citizens, specifically youth.

The Cabinet reiterated its commitment to a solid public-private partnership as the country pursues its energy transition objectives of the future and a better life for all, Mokonyane said. This is needed to bring much-needed policy and regulatory certainty, and maintain South Africa’s position as an energy investment destination of choice, she added.

She disclosed that the Cabinet had approved that the Agreement Amending Annex 1 (Co-operation on Investment) of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Finance and Investment (FIP) be tabled in Parliament for ratification.

The purpose of the FIP is to harmonize financial and investment policies of the 15 SADC member countries so that they are consistent with the objectives of SADC. This will ensure that any changes to financial and investment policies in one Member State does not necessitate undesirable adjustments in other Member States, Mokonyane said.

The aim of the amendments are to preserve the right of governments to regulate in the public interest and to balance the rights and obligations of investors and governments.



PRETORIA– Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom says millions of South Africans and international tourists continue to visit and travel around South Africa, despite the current water crisis.

We appreciate the responsiveness and respect shown by our visitors in helping us deal with one of the worst droughts experienced in our country, Hanekom said here Thursday, adding that the continuing innovation in water-wise initiatives had been remarkable, with new and progressive solutions introduced on an ongoing basis.

Hanekom also welcomed the announcement by the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Zweli Mkhize, that the worst drought-affected areas would have access to national disaster funds and other forms of assistance.

Hanekom congratulated all South Africans and both local and international travellers on achieving what is being hailed as a global first in terms of the extent to which water consumption is reduced during a drought.

The additional funds will allow these efforts to continue in all affected parts of the country, particularly in Cape Town, the most badly affected metropolis.

Awareness has changed consumer behaviour to respect the reality that South Africa is a water-scarce country and that water should never be wastedm said Hanekom.

We are delighted that tourists and travellers to South Africa continue to be part of the solution by embracing new and innovative water-wise tourism practices. Congratulations to our tourism agencies, the travel trade as well as our tourists and communities at large for rising to the challenge,” he said.

More importantly, I encourage all tourists, both local and international, to enjoy the experiences our beautiful South Africa has to offer, in a way that embraces ‘Travel, Enjoy and Respect’, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) message to all.”